Discuss the irony found in Act IV of Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare. 

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carol-davis | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Act IV in Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare serves the purpose to show what has happened to the two factions after the death of Caesar: Marc Antony and the new government versus the two conspirators, Cassius and Brutus. Both groups have been at work preparing to enter into civil war. 

In the first scene, situational irony comes in the behavior of Antony and the actions of the new leaders of the government: Antony, Lepidus, and Octavius.  In Act III, Antony displayed a document purporting to be the will of Caesar in which Caesar gave most of his holdings to the people of Rome. Antony sends Lepidus to get the will so that that they can reduce and keep back the things that Caesar promised the people. 

When Lepidus leaves, Antony, behaving like a cad, talks about him behind his back. This verbal abuse by Antony of Lepidus serves as an illustration of Antony’s sense of political pragmatism: while he does not respect Lepidus, he still uses him for his own purposes.

The behavior of Antony is much different now. He has become more powerful and a part of the new government.  Ironically like the conspirators, the triumvirate is deciding who should die among those that do not support them.  Antony is preparing a list of executions. 

In Scenes ii and iii, the conspirators come to the spotlight.  The audience against sees two entirely different men.  They are no longer the strong and unafraid assassins, but now they are men on the run. Again, the irony comes forth in the difference in Cassius and Brutus behavior and purposes.

Both of the conspirators have been rallying their own armies.  Their intention is to meet and decide how to fight Antony.  However, the situational irony finds the conspirators at each other’s throat. Questions of honor plague the conspirators as well, as Cassius and Brutus exchange accusations

Cassius charges Brutus with having condemned one of his men for taking bribes, even though Cassius sent letters asking Brutus not to. Brutus responds by accusing Cassius of having taken bribes himself at times.

Brutus tells him to recall the Ides of March when they killed Caesar because they believed that he was corrupt. The ironic aspect here is that is not why Cassius killed Caesar.  It was not for the good of Rome but because he personally felt that Caesar did not deserve the crown any more than Cassius.  Jealous and envy were at the root of Cassius’s decision to kill Caesar.

Brutus is also angry because he ask Cassius for money and he ignored him.  Cassius denies this and said that he did not receive the right message. 

After much yelling and accusations, the two made up.  They are more together than are the triumvirate.  The conspirators have put the argument on the table, discussed, and settled it like men.

We at the height are ready to decline.
There is a tide in the affairs of men
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries

Now, they make plans to meet and battle with Antony.  On the other hand, the triumvirate is not getting along well.  Antony does not like Lepidus.  Octavius takes up for Lepidus.  There is an obvious undercurrent of dissatisfaction


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